Monday, May 9, 2011

Performance & The Subconscious Mind- Part 3 Albert Ellis

Performance & The Subconscious Mind- Part 3 Albert Ellis
[Originally Posted on February 1, 2011 by Richard Matteson]


Clearing Negative Beliefs and Experiences

Clearing Technique #2: Forgiveness & Understanding Our Beliefs

“I absolutely MUST, under practically all conditions and at all times, perform well (or outstandingly well) and win the approval (or complete love) of significant others. If I fail in these important—and sacred—respects, that is awful and I am a bad, incompetent, unworthy person, who will probably always fail and deserves to suffer.” One of the three basic irrational beliefs (or musts) posited by Albert Ellis creator of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)

This quote from Ellis (September 27, 1913 – July 24, 2007) shows the fear that the pressure and stress of a performance may bring. It’s no wonder that performances trigger the biological “fight or flight” responses in our nervous system. It’s also no wonder many performers suffer some form of “performance anxiety.”

In 1955 Ellis, a psychologist who held M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in clinical psychology from Columbia University and American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP), developed Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT).

This blog will continue examining methods of “clearing” unwanted negative beliefs and traumatic experiences from the subconscious mind that may be preventing successful musical performances. Ellis used a rational humanistic approach and posed: it’s not the event (performance) that is a challenge it’s our views and beliefs about the event that is a challenge. He didn’t try advise “clearing” the subconscious as much as understanding the problem and dealing with it in a positive accepting way. We make mistakes; we accept and forgive ourselves and go on.

Ellis was inspired by many of the teachings of Asian, Greek, Roman and modern philosophers. The idea that our beliefs upset us was first articulated by Epictetus around 2,000 years ago: “Men are disturbed not by events, but by the views which they take of them.”

Albert Ellis and REBT posit that our reaction to having our goals blocked (or even the possibility of having them blocked) is determined by our beliefs. To illustrate this, Dr. Ellis developed a simple ABC format to teach people how their beliefs cause their emotional and behavioral responses:

A. Something happens.
B. You have a belief about the situation.
C. You have an emotional reaction to the belief.

In the 2003 Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, Albert Ellis posits three major insights of his ABC format and REBT:

“Insight 1 – People seeing and accepting the reality that their emotional disturbances at point C only partially stem from the activating events or adversities at point A that precede C. Although A contributes to C, and although disturbed Cs (such as feelings of panic and depression) are much more likely to follow strong negative As (such as being assaulted or raped), than they are to follow weak As (such as being disliked by a stranger), the main or more direct cores of extreme and dysfunctional emotional disturbances (Cs) are people’s irrational beliefs — the absolutistic musts and their accompanying inferences and attributions that people strongly believe about their undesirable activating events.

Insight 2 – No matter how, when, and why people acquire self-defeating or irrational beliefs (i.e. beliefs which are the main cause of their dysfunctional emotional-behavioral consequences), if they are disturbed in the present, they tend to keep holding these irrational beliefs and continue upsetting themselves with these thoughts. They do so not because they held them in the past, but because they still actively hold them in the present, though often unconsciously, while continuing to reaffirm their beliefs and act as if they are still valid. In their minds and hearts they still follow the core philosophies they adopted or invented long ago, or ones they recently accepted or constructed.

Insight 3 – No matter how well they have achieved insight 1 and insight 2, insight alone will rarely enable people to undo their emotional disturbances. They may feel better when they know, or think they know, how they became disturbed – since insights can give the impression of being useful and curative. But, it is unlikely that they will actually get better and stay better unless they accept insights 1 and 2, and then also go on to strongly apply insight 3: There is usually no way to get better and stay better but by: continual work and practice in looking for, and finding, one’s core irrational beliefs; actively, energetically, and scientifically disputing them; replacing one’s absolutist musts with flexible preferences; changing one’s unhealthy feelings to healthy, self-helping emotions; and firmly acting against one’s dysfunctional fears and compulsions. Only by a combined cognitive, emotive, and behavioral, as well as a quite persistent and forceful attack on one’s serious emotional problems, is one likely to significantly ameliorate or remove them — and keep them removed.”

For example:

A. You have a performance coming up, you’re concerned about the situation.
B. You believe, “The music’s too difficult, I’m not ready. I’ll never make it thought the hard piece. The last time I performed my hands were shaking, it was horrible.”
C. You feel fearful and anxious.

If you hold a different belief, your emotional response would be different:

A. You have a performance coming up, you’re concerned about the situation.
B. You believe, “I love performing and sharing music. If I practice more on the hard piece I’ll be ready.”
C. You feel excitement and anticipation.

The ABC model shows that A does not cause C. It is B that causes C.

Clearly different beliefs can produce different results. By accepting ourselves as fallible and embracing our mistakes as well as our victories, we can forgive ourselves and forgive others. We can establish positive beliefs with forgiveness.

If we make a mistake in a performance- so what?- we go on. By accepting our mistakes and knowing that we are human we’re able to recover and go on. And most importantly- the mistakes from past performances will not haunt us causing more anxiety. For it’s not so much the mistakes but rather our attitude towards them.

When we forgive ourselves, we take the pressure off. When we take the pressure off, we can perform.

Say it to yourself: “Forgive me, forgive me, forgive me.”

More to come,


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